I went to The Ballery last night for the vernissage of an amazing show of historic and modern gay erotic art.
The show and this special edition of the “My Gay Eye” book are presented by Rinaldo Hopf and Durk Dehner, the President of the Tom of Finland Foundation. Durk was representing in his Tom of Finland Foundation shirt! Rinaldo, a master of German erotic art, was so friendly and kind to me!
The show has Tom of Finland originals and vintage gay comic pages as well as gorgeous contemporary works on display. Lots of West Berlin queer elders were present, including legendary performer and dandy Henry de Winter, left above, who I drew at a birthday party this winter. And Olaf of Berlin Cigar Men, another favorite subject of mine. Photographer Ron-Berlin, on the right above, told me a beautiful story about his time in San Francisco in the 90s.
It was very important to me to draw Durk, center above and left below, because I wasn’t able to when I met him in Los Angeles in 2005.
Durk IS living queer history, a million stories of passion, friendship and loss alive in one veteran of the war for the freedom to love.
He is full of love and light, always moving forward, always looking to help young artists. His lifetime of advocacy for queer art and queer culture has made an enormous difference in what was saved and who can make art. I watched exhilarated young queers thanking him for the work he has done with the Foundation to protect gay history.
And the Tom of Finland Foundation made a huge difference to me, on the second worst night of my life.
On December 10, 2005, the day my second husband finally told me he was leaving me, I was in Los Angeles. I drove away from him forever on a Culver City street and went to Hollywood to see a portrait client. She hugged me as soon as she saw my face, and we were suddenly friends. To have my impossible grief received with compassion was one of the greatest gifts my work has led me to, and the portrait is one of the best I’ve done.
Then I changed into fetish wear in the car on the street in Echo Park and went to the Tom of Finland House.
My eyes were swollen from crying, and it was really hard to put my false eyelashes on, but I had been invited to the Foundation’s Holiday party and I wasn’t going to miss it. I came up the walk to the beautiful Craftsman house (now a Los Angeles Historic Cultural Monument site), and friendly leather folx waved at me from the porch.
The house was glowing with light in the winter dusk; I went in the open door and found myself in history, hope and family. The kitchen was full of potluck dishes; there were clusters of people laughing in every room, and everyone welcomed me.
I wandered the house, looking at the art on the warm walls, thinking about the queer lives and stories the house holds. An adorable twink sprawled on the bed in the Artist’s Residency room. Someone offered me a tour and I was lovingly led to see Tom’s studio and the spooky, kinky basement. I felt pregnant with pain, every cell in my body was poisoned with pain and loss, but I knew my work mattered and that it mattered in the context and embrace of this living museum.
The community was like a beating heart, and I was just one random corpuscle, safe in its pulse. I knew people cared about me and about art and that I was going to survive this terrible day and keep making sexy queer art. Just as the house had survived the AIDS crisis, just as queer life has survived and blossomed in the 21st Century, I was going to keep working.
Thirteen years later Durk hugged me in the heart of Gay West Berlin, and he is still strong and vital and working his ass off for art, and so am I.
An absolute must-see of exuberant gay love and gay lust, the “My Gay Eye – Homage to Tom of Finland” exhibit is up at The Ballery through mid-September. If you go on a Tuesday evening you can enjoy cocktails on the street and Otto playing the grand piano like the folx in the picture above!
The Tom of Finland Foundation protects, preserves and promotes erotic art.
You can become a member right here! The work the Foundation does to preserve queer creative history is beyond price, but you can always help with donations! It’s a nonprofit 501(c)(3) Educational Archive so donations are tax-deductible 🙂
And of course, I am able to do this work making art about queer history because of the generous support of my Patreon Patrons. I make this live art and share it for free because of my Patrons, and anyone can help for as little as a buck a month.